Forty-seven years ago, on October 30th, a dedication ceremony was taking place on campus to celebrate a major new aspect of Emory & Henry College, the opening of the Fredrick T. Kelly Library. The history of the library at Emory & Henry before Kelly Library is one filled with relocation after relocation, fires and even book burning.
Before 1968 the library was located in several different locations around campus. While the exact location of the library before the Civil War is unknown, records show that there were multiple library collections: the college’s library, which was around 4,000 volumes, and the Calliopean and Hermesian Literary Society collections which between the two totaled over 8,000 volumes. Following the war the two literary societies donated their separate collections to be consolidated with the college library. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the library was located in Byars House. In 1888 this location caught fire, resulting in the library losing a portion of its resources, estimated from records to be around 4,000 titles.
After the fire and the turn of the century, the library was moved around and stored in different locations. During the construction of a new administration building, where a portion was going to be dedicated for the library, books were stored in residence halls, classroom buildings, and even in the former servants’ quarters behind Collins House. At the completion of the administration building in 1915, the library was once again relocated to its new home. During this time the first full-time librarian was hired in 1922 and soon after was discovered burning books! In 1923 a replacement arrived, Mary Ann Akers, who would spend her time at Emory & Henry rebuilding the collection, not just from the previous year’s scandal but also from a fire in April 1928 which would destroy the administration building and with it between 12 and 20 thousand books. The remaining books after that fire were relocated to a storage building near the Emory Mercantile. In 1943, the challenge of developing a library befit of Emory &Henry College fell into the hands of a new librarian, Helen Powers.
In 1954, with the support of the president, Byars House was converted into Byars Memorial Library – the first library building on campus. But the library was growing as fast as the college and the expanding curriculum so in the 1960’s it was decided that a larger building was necessary to house this important aspect of the college, a building which was built exclusively to house the college’s library from its inception. Following their deaths in 1962, Fredrick Thrasher Kelly (class of 1905) and his wife, Rebecca, bequeathed their entire estate to Emory & Henry College. This large gift, the largest in the history of the college, was used not only as permanent endowment, but also as funds to build the president’s house and the Fredrick Thrasher Kelly Library.
(Much of this account is indebted to Helen Allison Orr’s The History of the Emory & Henry Library, 1839-1954. For more information on the history of the college library please see this unpublished M.A. thesis. LD1751.E372 O7)
In celebration of our upcoming birthday we bring you a list of items about libraries, librarians, and books that you can find right on our shelves.
Dewey by Vicki Myron (SF 445.5 .M97 2008)
Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicki Myron(SF 445.5 .M974 2010)
Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck ([Juvenile] PZ 7 .P338 Her 2006)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (PS 3611 .O74927 H57 2005)
In the Stacks (PN 6120.95 .L554 I52 2002)
Rex Libris. I, Librarian written and illustrated by James Turner ([Graphic Novel] PN 6727 .T865 2007)
Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (PS 3564 .I362 T56 2003)